AJC Deplores Treatment of Gays in Nigeria

Feb 09, 2014, 19:11 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, Feb. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC deplores the abominable treatment of gays in Nigeria. The harassment, imprisonment and torture of gays, sanctioned by a Nigerian law enacted last month, was the focus of a major front-page story in today's New York Times.

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"Nigeria's unforgiving attitude towards gays violates the most basic human rights of individuals," said Eliseo Neuman, director of AJC's Africa Institute. "This is not a matter of cultural or religious norms, but one of basic humanity, respect for all human beings whatever their ethnicity, faith, or sexual orientation."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned that the law would promote prejudice and violence against gays. Indeed, according to the Times, since Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed the law criminalizing homosexuality, arrests of gays have multiplied and many have sought to flee the country or gone into hiding.

Under the new law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage, civil union or domestic partnership could face up to 14 years in prison. In addition, gay and lesbian citizens meeting in public settings, or participating in gay organizations, could face prison terms of up to ten years. Meanwhile, as the Times reported, courts in Nigeria's predominantly Islamic northern region have carried out severe beatings of "convicted" homosexuals.

To his credit, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the law "is inconsistent with Nigeria's international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution."

Homosexuality is illegal in at least 36 of Africa's 55 countries. "The prevalence of hatred against gays throughout the African continent cannot for a moment excuse or explain Nigeria's oppressive law," said Neuman. "The UN, world leaders and human rights advocates should urge the Nigerian government to reconsider its hateful actions against its own citizens."

SOURCE American Jewish Committee